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Background:
I’m a sportscar kinda guy and I’m forced into buying a sedan due to the emergence of a family (where did they come from?).

So I have to get a sedan. Maybe a sports sedan, as I’m such a sportscar kind of guy? Now, let me start off by dissecting the phrase sports-sedan. There is no such thing, sports sedan is an oxymoron. A sedan is a sedan. We have sports cars, and sedans. Not sports sedans. Just like a luxury car is a luxury car and not a luxury sedan. We have compact cars, luxury cars, sports cars, and sedan cars.

All this, though, doesn’t mean I don’t have in my mind what a sedan should be.

The Find:
I drive to pick a few things up at Sam’s. It’s a good excuse, the ride takes me right past the Mazda dealership, and I have yet to see a ‘6. I pass the dealership as I drive way too slow in the left lane, craning to see if any are there. The dealership goes on, and my disappointment rises with each foot driven. Just as I’m about to run out of dealership, I see something on a pedestal all the way in the corner of the lot. I barely had time to question it and ask myself “is that it?” before I found myself passing it. I quickly refocused my attention to the center island so that I may locate the first U-turn.


Walkaround:
Upon driving into the lot, I was greeted by about 5 new ‘6’s lined up along the side of the building. I couldn’t park fast enough.

The car looks smaller than it really is. The headlights are nice. Very nice. Much nicer than the pictures lead on to. The grill, as expected from pictures, is big and doesn’t quite fit with the sleek lines of the car. Different angles make the grill look not as bad, but head-on or even a slight angle off is the worst profile for this car.

A walk down the driver’s side is nice. It’s a clean, sleek design. The car is very rounded in its roofline, and therefore doesn’t look as big as it is.

Around the back, the taillights are stunning. Absolutely gorgeous. The trunk lines and opening crease fit the lines of the car perfectly. The bumper is big, but somehow doesn’t look gaudy.

The trunk is nice and roomy. A push of a button and the seatbacks simply fall (almost) flat. Neat!

Overall, the car is sharp. Real sharp. In fact, it’s one of the nicest looking sedans I’ve ever seen.


Get in:
I opened the door to a well-loaded 6i (there were no 6s’s on the lot). The leather in the car was decent, but not as high quality as I’ve seen in some competitors. I sit, and it’s pretty comfortable – not spectacular, but nothing to complain about. The three-spoke wheel is nice. The black textured dash, like the seats, isn’t great, but I don’t think it’s something that would bother me. The overall fit of the dash seems to be good – any gaps are even and consistent. There was one spot near the bottom, however, where I noticed the plastic flared out ever so slightly.

The silver console looks cheesy. A few button presses and touches reminds me of some die-cast toys I used to own as a kid. The circular vents, though, are really sharp and add a unique touch. They click a bit as they are rotated, providing a good feel and nice tactile feedback.

Opening the sunglasses pocket and the cup holder in the center console feels nice. The shifter is in an excellent spot where my hand just settles on it and rests comfortably.

I adjust the front seat and move to the back. Only upon getting out do I realize the car is nice and low. Sitting in the back reveals Mazda did an excellent trick here - my feet slide right under the front seat and I sit comfortably in the back, although my hair brushes the roof if I sit up straight.


The drive:
The car driven was a more base-model 6i in an automatic. I am sure the automatic sapped a lot of fun out of it, but that’s what we’ll be buying, so that’s what I’m going to test drive.

I initially couldn’t find the mirror adjustment. It was dark, and I don’t think it lit. I had to turn the interior light on to find it. A left/right clicker and a rocker adjusted the mirrors for me. These controls could have had a little more play for a better feel, but I’m not overly concerned with that as one does not readjust their mirrors too often.
I tilted and telescoped the wheel into my lap. The top of the wheel cut the two large gauges in front of me, hindering my vision. I played with it a bit, and found a reasonable medium. The zig-zaggy shifter is a bit odd, hopefully just because I’m not used to it.

I shift into drive and pull away. The 160 horsepower 4 cylinder provides reasonable acceleration with a decent exhaust note. There is no noticeable weight transfer, the car stays perfectly level and goes. It was only a few feet to the first stop sign. I gently applied the brakes, and they bit hard. Very impressive. We get stuck behind a couple of cars which gives me the opportunity to play with the manumatic part of the transmission. I slide the shifter over, and a digital “3” comes up on the dash. Very nice. I blip the shifter up and down as I accelerate and decelerate. It blips nicely, with almost a clicky feel. Hey, this is actually kind of fun! Not as fun as a regular stick, but more fun than I expected. Blip it back to automatic mode, and the car takes over without any questions. Blip it back, and you are back in the gear the car wants to be in. Neat if you lose track of what gear you are in, or you want to quickly correct for a bad shift. Through all this, the car didn’t complain. In fact, it was quite indifferent, urging me to blip the shifter up and down and back and forth as much as I wanted. Through all of this, the shifts were smooth, both manually and automatically. There was no noticeable weight transfer at any point. In automatic mode, shifts were smooth. Not perfectly so, but smooth. Quite good under normal acceleration, and only a little noticeable under extreme conditions.

The car feels bumps. They don't jolt you, but it's just enough to remind you that there is a road under you. You don't have the steering-wheels-road feeling, but hey, it's a sedan. It's an excellent balance between smooth and sporty.

We finally wound up with no one in front of me. What is this I see? A sign with a twisty road on it! Yay! The rest of the trip was a combination of some good twisties and deserted straightaways. I didn’t fully open the car up – it was dark and I was on unfamiliar roads, but I still drove it harder than probably 98% of the people who test drive. The salesman even commented at one point. I think I scared him a couple of times.

Somewhere in here I tested the brakes. I didn’t slam them on as I didn’t warn the salesman, but I did hit them hard. The brakes bit. Instantly. The car stopped with no screech, no dive, no loss of composure. Dare I say this car brakes like a sports car? The brakes are simply amazing.

I bounced between manumatic and automatic mode. I took the turns with different amounts of throttle at different points in the turn. I focused on empty points in the road, and then dodged them. Not once did the car even hint at losing it’s composure. Only once did I notice a slight gap between initially turning the wheel, and the front wheels responding. Probably was the speed-control steering, and it was so slight most people would call me crazy. Only once did I feel a tiny bit of weight transfer from the front to the back. So small, in fact, I don’t know if I would have noticed it (or if it even would have happened) during a normal drive. I could have kept going as long as the road kept twisting.

Towards the end of our drive, I played with the steering wheel controls, and a few controls on the console. The steering wheel controls are a bit small, but have a nice feel and provided good tactile feedback. I still had to move my hand, though, from its normal driving position to utilize the buttons. A look over to the display at the top of the console was comprehensive. The information was displayed cleanly, and was absorbed quickly. I would have loved to have seen the center console angled towards the driver about 30 degrees.

Back to the dealership. I made a few lane changes at higher speeds. I had to make the same U-turn as when I initially came in. I took it hard. There was no lean, no torque steer, no oversteer. The car zipped through it solid as a rock.


Conclusion:
The car wasn’t what I would call fun, almost surely because of the automatic. The manumatic mode was more pleasing. I am sure the 6 cylinder, although heavier, would be more fun as it would surely have more to zing you through the turns. The car is, however, solid. The car is confidence-inspiring. The car feels safe. The car is amazingly responsive. Tell the car what you want it to do, and the car does exactly what you expect it to do.

It is said that this car is designed after a cat. If this is true, then the tires are it’s claws and the asphalt is it’s prey. It digs in and doesn't let go. I said I have an idea of what a sedan should be. The ‘6 is it. Driving the ‘6 is the closest thing to a perfect sedan that I’ve ever driven.
 
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